Activity 4 – Osteoporosis – Claire Walker

Osteoporosis is a disease that affects bone tissue. Bones become brittle and fragile due to loss of bone tissue and are extremely susceptible to breaks and fractures. Osteoporosis mainly affects older people—those over 50—and can happen naturally due to a deficiency of vitamin C and D, over-consumption of protein, sodium, and caffeine, smoking, or losing a large amount of weight over a small period of time (1). While all people need to be aware of the risk factors of osteoporosis, women are particularly susceptible.

A woman’s risk of breaking a hip due to osteoporosis is equal to her risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer combined. While there is no known cause for osteoporosis or clear reason why women are more susceptible to the disease can be due to the fact that women are generally smaller than men, and usually have thinner bones (2). That, combined with the fact that after menopause—which can cause bone loss on its own—estrogen decreases sharply. Estrogen is a hormone more prevalent in women that, among other things, protects bones. Combined with the bone tissue loss, and the comparatively small bones to begin with, seem to be indicators of why women are so much more likely to suffer from the disease than men.

Osteoporosis is dangerous, not just because of the painful implications of easily broken bones, but can cause serious and permanent damage. A broken vertebra can lead to paralysis, but also cause the patient to lose height, become stooped, and lead to poor posture, which can induce back pain. While a back injury is a serious risk, the most common breaks are the hip and wrist (3).

I believe that this is an important topic to be studies because it shows a lot about the views of female specific illness. In early medicine almost all doctors were male and so very little attention was ever paid to osteoporosis. C. Christiansen explained that if there was a larger amount of female researchers in the past we could possibly have a cure by now. It also shows that our society seems to latch on to one problem and not let go but disregard other very prominent disease. If osteoporosis is as likely to happen in a woman as breast cancer, why are we not racing for that cure?

From a public health stand point in is also incredibly important because it affects thousands of women per year. It causes a myriad of mental problems because a person with osteoporosis cannot do much for themselves and often end up with severe depression and isolation. This disease says a lot about our aging society and, evolutionarily speaking, it is not a new phenomenon. In a society that has a growing elderly population we seem to have less interest in their health than any other demographic. It also highlights the somewhat new concept of ageism and elderly abuse. Most cultures revere their elderly and learn from them but our culture willingly discards them into retirement homes. This disease needs to be addressed in order to stop the suffering of elderly women across the world.

  1. Stanley, Franklin. “What Is Osteoporosis.” National Osteoporosis Foundation 7, no. 4 (2014): 4-8. Accessed July 31, 2015. http://nof.org/articles/7.
  2. Kannis, J., D. Black, and C. Cooper. “A New Approach to the Development of Assessment Guidelines for Osteoporosis.” Osteoporosis International 13, no. 7 (2014): 527-36. Accessed July 31, 2015. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s001980200069?LI=true.
  3. Christiansen, C., and C. Johnston. “The Diagnosis of Osteoporosis.” JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH, 2009. doi:10.1002/jbmr.5650090802.
  4. Christiansen, C., and C. Johnston. “The Diagnosis of Osteoporosis.” JOURNAL OF BONE AND MINERAL RESEARCH, 2009. doi:10.1002/jbmr.5650090802.

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